Oh, you silly, mad, impetuous boy of a Bellman, of course you’ve heard it before! Your sense of exactitude may be lacking but as we shall demonstrate, that is mere subterfuge! In fact, our Bellman has a cunning plan … designed to cloak the manicheaen dichotomy of his cryptognostic brainbox with something completely different!
The Bellman’s memory of the Baker’s Snark-Hunting Method (see last week’s verse) has been divided, like William Pitt or George Bush, into two portions to conceal his heretical, dare we say, even paganistic proclivities …
The more orthodox memory is derived from childhood memories of Sunday morning sermonizing at the ol’ Dodgson vicarage, to wit, Hebrews 12 : 17 …
"For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
However, there is another, more pertinent memory lurking in the wings, a happier memory of family sing-alongs around the parlour piano, to wit, some verses from that favorite Victorian ballad, The Mistletoe Bough …
They sought her that night, they sought her next day,
They sought her in vain when a week passed away.
Nothing much to see here*, folks — until one remembers that the mistletoe is an ancient element of that paganism which was uprooted entirely by the orthodox Christianity which the Bellman supposedly espouses with his first, Abrahamic memory!
Say it ain’t so, Bellman! Deny, if you can, that what we have here, in this Snark Hunters’ recipe of "seeking-thimbles-care-forks-hope-railway-share-smiles-soap" is nothing less than a Celtic pagan’s verse charm, an Old English galdor in fact, cleverly concealed behind some monotheistic prattle! But he cannot deny, he cannot say it ain’t so, he stands silent.
And so we must unmask the Bellman to show him as he really is — an unrepentant henotheist! All this versified fancypants talk of seeking Snarks is just old-fashioned pagan charm-making — by jove, it’s plain witchcraft! Deny it all you can, Bellman, but shame on you, the fictional creation of a clergyman’s son, for your heathen ways. You and your cabal of backsliding, snark-worshipping, Anglo-Saxon cryptoskálds are found out at last! Go now, skulk in your sordid oak groves …
… How on earth did they find me out, you wonder, from whence comes this prosecutorial zeal? By Belenos, what is this, the Spanish Inquisition? — ha, ha — nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
* There are those quibblers who will insist upon "The Mistletoe Bough's" publication date of 1884 rendering null and void all manner of thoughts concerning the influence of Old English poetry upon Lewis Carroll, and in particular, the general, pre-Christian, Northern European penchant for conflating linguistic structure with cosmological structure. I do not know whether the ballad has an older antecedent (I suspect it does, simply because I wish it so) but I do know that Carroll's fascination with linguistic world-play is undeniable and has deep roots in English culture.
There are also those inquisitorial types who will point out that the premise of all of the above theorizing is the precise opposite of last week's theorizing upon the same critical Eighth Stanza. To them I must reply, with all the hauteur and superciliousness I can muster at such short notice — belgium, man, belgium!